Current Affairs Analysis

24th March 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Yakshagana;National Supercomputing Mission; Extradition Treaty between India and Belgium; What is extradition?; Extradition act, 1972; Tech based proposals sought to curb Covid-19; Section 188 IPC; Epidemic act, 1987; Hydroxychoroquine; Bhima Koregaon judicial commission seeks 6 months extension; Bhima Koregaon battle; Finance bill passed ahead of Corona Virus lockdown; half of the world’s students out of class; Ordnance Factory Board; Hubballi-Ankola link project; Smog Tower; World Tuberculosis Day.
By IASToppers
March 24, 2020

Contents­

Polity & Governance

  • Section 188 IPC
  • Tech based proposals sought to curb Covid-19

Government Schemes and policies

  • National Supercomputing Mission

Issues related to health and education

  • Hydroxychoroquine
  • Half of the world’s students out of class

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Extradition Treaty between India and Belgium

Economy

  • Finance bill passed ahead of Corona Virus lockdown

Indian History

  • Bhima Koregaon judicial commission seeks 6 months extension

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Ordnance Factory Board
  • Yakshagana
  • Hubballi-Ankola link project
  • Smog Tower
  • World Tuberculosis Day.

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Polity & Governance

Section 188 IPC

Delhi and many other states took the Centre’s advice to enforce a full lockdown in districts to contain the spread of COVID-19 by imposing Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.

Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897:

  • The orders issued to curb the spread of the coronavirus have been framed under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, which lays down punishment as per Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, for flouting such orders –leading to imprisonment of up to 6 months or fine up to Rs 1000 or both.
  • In the past, the Act has been routinely enforced across the country for dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as swine flu, dengue, and cholera.
  • Its penal provisions are currently being invoked by states to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code?

  • Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, provides penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act.
  • These are according to Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).
  • Section 188, which comes under the Code’s Chapter X, ‘Of Contempt of the Lawful Authority of Public Servants’, reads:

Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant.—

  • Whoever, knowing that, by an order promulgated by a public servant lawfully empowered to promulgate such order, he is directed to abstain from a certain act, or to take certain order with certain property in his possession or under his management, disobeys such direction,

shall, if such disobedience causes or tends to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury, or risk of obstruction, annoyance or injury, to any persons lawfully employed, be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both;

  • and if such disobedience causes or tends to cause danger to human life, health or safety, or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.

What happens if you violate the lockdown orders?

Under Section 188, there two offences:

  • Disobedience to an order lawfully promulgated by a public servant, If such disobedience causes obstruction, annoyance or injury to persons lawfully employed.

Punishment: Simple Imprisonment for 1 month or fine of Rs 200 or both

  • If such disobedience causes danger to human life, health or safety, etc.

Punishment: Simple Imprisonment for 6 months or fine of Rs 1000 or both

  • According to the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973, both offences are cognizable, bailable, and can be tried by any magistrate.

 [Ref: Indian Express]

Tech-based proposals sought to curb Covid-19

The Technology Development Board (TDB), a body under the Department of Science & Technology, has invited proposal from Indian companies to address protection and home-based respiratory intervention for Covid-19 patients.

Quest for Innovative Solutions:

  • The proposal may include technologically innovative solutions like low-cost masks, cost-effective scanning devices, technologies for sanitisation of large areas as well as for contactless entry, rapid diagnostic kits and oxygenators, and ventilators.
  • DST is looking at low-cost masks which can capture virus from the air and absorb respiratory droplets, cost-effective thermal scanning, large area sanitisation and sterilisation (including electrostatic spray and Ultra Violet treatment for various available surfaces like glass, ceramic, wood, textile).
  • It aims at bioinformatics and surveillance, rapid and accurate diagnosis kit (paper-based and other point of care devices), Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things (IOT) solution for contact-less entry, low cost and portable oxygenators and ventilators (low-cost and portable).
  • Several start-ups are also coming up with technology-driven solutions to identify cases and help the government track the movement of those who have been tested positive.
  • Healthcare company Portea has developed a chatbot called Cobot-19 which will disseminate information related to coronavirus.

Technology Development Board:

  • Technology Development Board is a statutory body established by Government of India under Technology Development Board Act, 1995, to promote development and commercialization of indigenous technology and adaptation of imported technology for much wider application.
  • The Government reconstituted the Board in March 2000 and consists of 11 Board members.
  • It plays a pro-active role by encouraging enterprises to take up technology-oriented products.
  • The board provides equity capital or loans to industrial concerns and financial assistance to research and development institutions.
  • The TDB Board provides financial assistance by means of soft loans (up to 50 % of project cost at 5 % simple interest per annum, equity participation (up to a maximum of 25 % of the project cost) or grant in exceptional cases, for encouraging the commercial application of indigenously developed technology and for adapting imported technology to wider domestic application.
[Ref: Bussiness Standard]

Government Schemes and policies

National Supercomputing Mission

In an attempt to boost the country’s computing power, the National Super Computing Mission is steered jointly by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) and Department of Science and Technology (DST) and implemented by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.

Objective:

  • The mission is to provide the country with supercomputing infrastructure to meet the increasing computational demands of academia, researchers, MSMEs, and startups by creating the capability design, manufacturing, of supercomputers indigenously in India.

Target:

  • The target of the mission is to establish a network of supercomputers ranging from a few Tera Flops (TF) to Hundreds of Tera Flops (TF) and three systems with greater than or equal to 3 Peta Flops (PF) in academic and research institutions of National importance across the country by 2022.
  • This network of Supercomputers envisaging a total of 15-20 PF was approved in 2015 and was later revised to a total of 45 PF (45000 TFs), a jump of 6 times more compute power within the same cost and capable of solving large and complex computational problems.

Supercomputing facility:

  • With the revised plan in place, the first supercomputer assembled indigenously, called Param Shivay, was installed in IIT (BHU) and was inaugurated by the Prime Minister.
  • Similar systems Param Shakti and Param Brahma were installed at IIT-Kharagpur and IISER, Pune.
  • They are equipped with applications from domains like Weather and Climate, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Bioinformatics, and Material science.
  • Plans are afoot to install three more supercomputers by April 2020, one each at IIT-Kanpur, JN Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru, and IIT-Hyderabad. This will ramp up the supercomputing facility to 6 PF.

Extension:

  • 11 new systems are likely to be set up in different IITs, NITs, National Labs, and IISERs across India by December 2020, which will have many sub-systems manufactured and microprocessors designed in India which will bring in a cumulative capacity of 10.4 petaflops.
  • Spreading out the reach to the North-East region of the country, 8 systems with a total Compute Power of 16 PF are being commissioned.
  • 5 indigenously designed systems with three 3 PF computing power will be installed at IIT-Mumbai, IIT-Chennai and Inter-University Accelerator Centre (IUAC) at Delhi with NKN as its backbone.
  • It also includes an indigenously build 20 PF system at C-DAC, Pune, and a 100 PF Artificial Intelligence supercomputing system
  • One midlevel 650 TFs system is also to be installed at C-DAC Bengaluru to provide consultancy to Start-ups, SSIs & MSMEs.
[Ref: PIB]

Issues related to health and education

Hydroxychloroquine

Hydroxychloroquine, a drug that has existed for several decades, could see a resurgence of demand, after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended its use as a post-exposure prophylactic (preventive medicine) against the novel coronavirus disease.

What is the issue?

  • Hydroxychloroquine-azithromycin combination is being touted as a “game changer” in the fight against COVID-19.

Hydroxychloroquine’s efficacy in COVID-19 patients:

  • Hydroxychloroquine is an oral drug used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • The drug shows antiviral activity in vitro against coronaviruses, and specifically, SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-2].
  • Pharmacological modelling based on observed drug concentrations and in vitro drug testing suggest that prophylaxis with hydroxychloroquine at approved doses could prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and ameliorate viral shedding.

Under Investigation:

  • Hydroxychloroquine is currently under investigation in clinical trials for pre-exposure or post-exposure prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and treatment of patients with mild, moderate, and severe COVID-19.
  • In the United States, several clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine for prophylaxis or treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection are planned or will be enrolling soon.
[Ref: The Indian Express]

Half the world’s students out of class, what happens next?

A number of countries around the world have shut down schools, colleges and universities because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

How many students has the outbreak affected?

  • The outbreak has pulled almost half (49.22%) of the world’s student population out of schools and universities.
  • According to UNESCO, until now, 107 countries had announced a complete shutdown of classrooms, impacting 86.17 crore children and youth.
  • Although the temporary closure of educational institutions on account of a crisis is not new, the scale of the present education disruption is unprecedented.

Has India implemented nationwide closure of schools and universities?

  • The Centre announced the closure of all universities and schools on March 16.
  • However, many educational institutions continue to remain open for heads, teachers and non-teaching staff.
  • Also, in many states including Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal, Board examinations are being held as per schedule, forcing Class 10 and 12 students to step out regularly.
  • On Wednesday, the Union government ordered the CBSE, NIOS and all universities and colleges to suspend ongoing examinations.
  • Following this, the Delhi government announced a complete closure of all schools, even for teachers and non-teaching staff.

Are school and university shutdowns helpful in mitigating an outbreak?

  • The World Health Organisation recommends school closure (including preschool and higher education) as one of the “non-pharmaceutical interventions” for mitigating influenza pandemics.
  • The rationale is that children and young people can be vectors of transmission, and high contact rates in schools could abet the spread of the virus.
  • With COVID-19, children and the young have been observed to suffer less than the elderly when infected, but they can still transmit the virus to the elderly at home.
  • With school closures during a pandemic, governments hope to break the chains of transmission.
  • This will help reduce the number of confirmed cases, avoid stressing healthcare systems, and allow more time to develop a vaccine.

How to minimise learning disruptions after closure?

  • Countries are adopting distance learning solutions to ensure continuity of education. A COVID-19 task force set up by UNESCO is advising countries in regular virtual meetings with Education Ministers.
  • China, the first country to impose a lockdown on citizens, was also the first to launch a simultaneous online learning exercise.
  • The Ministry of Education, according to China Daily, launched a national cloud learning platform to cater to students in middle school and high school.
  • In India, the closure of schools happened towards the end of the academic year. Hence, as of now, it hasn’t caused any significant learning loss.
  • However, if schools and universities were to remain shut beyond March 31, Union and state governments will have to implement distance learning solutions.
  • The Human Resource Development Ministry has decided to encourage schools and universities to “make full use” of existing e-learning portals such as the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platform Swayam, and the free DTH channel Swayam Prabha, which telecasts educational videos prepared by the NCERT.
[Ref: Indian express]

Bilateral & International Relations

Extradition Treaty between India and Belgium

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has approved the signing and ratifying of the Extradition Treaty between the Republic of India and the Kingdom of Belgium.

Salient Features:

1. Obligation to Extradite:

  • Each Party agrees to extradite to the other any person found in its territory, who is accused or convicted of an extraditable offence in the territory of the other Party.

2. Extraditable Offences:

  • An extraditable offence means an offence punishable under the laws of both the Parties with imprisonment for a period of one year or more severe punishment.
  • Where extradition is sought in respect of a convicted person, the duration of the sentence remaining to be served must be at least six months at the time of making the request.
  • Offences relating to taxation, or revenue or is one of a fiscal character also fall within the scope of this Treaty.

3. Mandatory grounds for Refusal:

Under the Treaty, extradition shall be refused if:

  • The offence involved is a political offence.  However, the Treaty specifies certain offences, which will not be considered as political offences.
  • The offence for which extradition is requested is a military offence.
  • The request for prosecution has been made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing the person on account of his race, sex, religion, nationality or political opinion.
  • The prosecution of enforcement of sentence has become time barred.

Extradition of Nationals:

  • Extradition of nationals is discretionary.
  • The nationality will be determined at the time the offence was committed.

The Treaty also contains provisions on:

  • Assurance in case of Capital punishment (Article 3 (7))
  • Central Authorities (Article 6)
  • Surrender (Article 11)
  • Handing over of Property (Article 18)
  • Transit (Article 19)
  • Protection of Personal Data (Article 21)
  • Expenses incurred in extradition (Article 22)
  • Consultations (Article 24)
  • Mutual legal assistance relating to extradition (Article 25)
  • Entry into Force Amendment and Termination of the Treaty (Article 26)

Benefits:

  • The Treaty would provide a legal framework for seeking extradition of terrorists, economic offenders, and other criminals from and to Belgium.
  • After ratification, the Treaty will enter into force from the date of exchange of instruments of ratification between India and Belgium.

Background:

  • The new Extradition Treaty will replace the pre-Independence Extradition Treaty between Great Britain and Belgium of 1901 that was made applicable to India through the exchange of Letters in 1958 and is currently in force between the Republic of India and the Kingdom of Belgium.
  • Due to the present procedural requirements and the fact that only limited number of offences are listed under the pre-Independence Treaty, the same has become obsolete in today’s context.

What is Extradition?

  • Extradition is the surrender by one State to another of a person desired to be dealt with for crimes for which he has been accused or convicted and which are justifiable in the courts of the other States.
  • Surrender of a person within the State to another State whether a citizen or an alien is a political act done in pursuance of a treaty or an arrangement ad hoc.
  • A Request for Extradition can be initiated against a fugitive criminal, who is formally accused of, charged with, or convicted of an extradition offence.
  • Fugitive Criminal’ means a person who is accused or convicted of an extradition offence within the jurisdiction of a foreign State and includes a person who, while in India, conspires, attempts to commit or incites or participates as an accomplice in the commission of an extradition offence in a foreign State.

Legislative Basis for Extradition in India:

  • The Extradition Act 1962 provides India’s legislative basis for extradition.
  • The Act consolidated the law relating to the extradition of fugitive criminals from India to foreign states.
  • It was substantially amended by Act 66 of 1993.
  • The Government of India has entered into bilateral Extradition Treaties with 42 countries to bring speed and efficiency to the process of extradition. Besides, India has entered into Extradition Arrangements with 9 more countries.

Who can make an Extradition Request to a Foreign Country?

  • Requests for Extradition on behalf of the Republic of India can only be made by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, which formally submits the request for Extradition to the Requested State through diplomatic channels.
  • Such requests are sent under the signature of the Minister of External Affairs.

 [Ref: MEA, PM India]

Economy

Finance bill passed ahead of coronavirus lockdown

The Finance Bill 2020 was hurriedly passed in the Lok Sabha without the customary discussion or reply by the Union finance minister and duly returned by the Rajya Sabha as the country headed for a lockdown to fight the coronavirus crisis.

Major Highlights:

  • The amendments moved by finance minister covered the taxation of petrol and diesel, definition of tax residence and clarifications related to dividend distribution tax (DDT).
  • They allow the government to raise special additional excise duty, when needed, by up to ₹18 a litre on petrol, up from ₹10 now and up to ₹12 a litre on diesel, up from ₹4 now.
  • These were last raised by ₹2 each on 14 March when, too, global oil prices declined sharply amid fears of a recession.
  • In direct taxes, a key amendment is to relax the provision relating to tax residence.
  • The original Finance Bill had proposed to reduce the time Indian citizens or persons of Indian origin needed to spend in India to qualify as Indian tax resident, from 182 days to 120 days in the previous year.
  • The amended Bill now provides that the lower 120 day rule will not apply if the Indian-sourced income of such persons is less than ₹15 lakh in the relevant financial year.
  • The bill also gave tax relief to shareholders who receive dividends.
  • The earlier version of the bill had abolished dividend distribution tax on companies and made dividends taxable in the hands of the recipient.
  • The amendments now clarify that dividends received by the shareholders after 1 April shall not be taxed if DDT has been paid as per the earlier law.
  • The Finance Bill also widens the ambit of the “equalisation levy” introduced in 2016 on payments made to non-resident service providers for online advertisements or digital advertising space or facilities.
  • This is expanded to include supply of services including online sale of goods, services or both by e-commerce operators.
  • The Finance Bill also proposed a more progressive personal income tax rate for people who do not avail of any tax incentives.

Rationale:

  • The intention to raise the taxes on auto fuel comes at a time when the government is looking for resources to announce a financial package to fight the impact of the coronavirus crisis.
[Ref: Live Mint]

Indian History

Bhima Koregaon judicial commission seeks 6-month extension​

The two-member judicial commission inquiring into the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence case on Monday sought a six-month extension from the state government as it has postponed its hearing in view of Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown in the state.

What is the issue?

  • 2018 was the 200th year of the victory of Mahars over the Brahmanical Peshwas.
  • During the celebrations, there were violent clashes between Dalit and Maratha groups, resulting in the death of at least one person and injuries to several others.

Bhima Koregaon battle:

  • Bhima Koregaon is a small village in Pune district of Maharashtra with a strong Dalit-nationalist historical connection.
  • The Battle was fought between the forces of the Peshwa and the British on January 1, 1818 at Bhima Koregaon village. The British army comprised primarily of Dalit soldiers.
  • Peshwa army had an upper caste domination.
  • Mahars (a community found largely in the state of Maharashtra and neighbouring areas) were considered an untouchable community, and were not recruited in the army by the peshwas.

Result:

  • The Dalit-dominated British troops defeated the Peshwa army.

Background of Battle of Koregaon:

  • By the 1800s, the Marathas were organized into a loose confederacy, with the major constituents being the Peshwa of Pune, the Scindia of Gwalior, the Holkar of Indore, the Gaekwad of Baroda, and the Bhosale of Nagpur.
  • The British intervened in a revenue-sharing dispute between the Peshwa and Gaekwad, and in June 1817, the Company forced Peshwa Baji Rao II to sign an agreement renouncing claims on Gaekwad’s revenues and ceding large swaths of territory to the British.
  • This treaty of Pune formally ended the Peshwa’s rule over other Maratha chiefs, thus officially ending the Maratha confederacy.
  • The Peshwa then fled to Satara, and the Company forces took complete control of Pune.
  • Britishers received news that the Peshwa intended to attack Pune.
  • The British troops came across the Peshwa’s forces while Peshwa was running away from Britishers. This resulted in the Battle of Koregaon.

 [Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]

Key Facts for Prelims

Ordnance Factory Board

  • Ordnance Factory Board is an industrial organisation, functioning under the Department of Defence Production of Ministry of Defence, Government of India.
  • It is engaged in research, development, production, testing, marketing and logistics of a comprehensive product range in the areas of air, land and sea systems.
  • It is often called the “Fourth Arm of Defence“, and the “Force Behind the Armed Forces” of India.
  • OFB is the 37th largest defence equipment manufacturer in the world, 2nd largest in Asia, and the largest in India.

Yakshagana

  • Yakshagana is a traditional Indian theatre form, developed in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Uttara Kannada, Shimoga and western parts of Chikmagalur districts of Karnataka and in Kasaragod district in
  • It is a combination of dance, music, dialogue, costume, make-up, and stage techniques with a unique style and form.
  • It is believed to have evolved from pre-classical music and theatre during the period of the Bhakti movement.
  • It is based on mythological stories, Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata and other epics from both Hindu and Jain and other ancient Indian traditions.
  • The most popular episodes are from the Mahabharata i.e.Draupadi swayamvar, Subhadra vivah, Abhimanyu vadh, Karna-Arjun yuddh and from Ramayana i.e. Raajyaabhishek, Lav-kushYuddh, Baali-Sugreevayuddha and Panchavati.
  • It is sometimes simply called “the play” in Tulu Language.
  • Yakshagana is strongly influenced by the Vaishnava Bhakti movement.
  • Yakshagana is traditionally presented from dusk to dawn.

Hubballi-Ankola link project

  • The Karnataka government has given its nod to the Hubballi-Ankola link project, despite concerns that it will damage biodiversity in the region where it is to be built.
  • The 168-km project will require the felling of 1.78 lakh trees in the Western Ghats section of Uttara Kannada district, Karnataka.

Smog Tower

  • Following a Supreme Court order, the Delhi government is in the process of building a smog tower to clean the air.
  • Smog towers are structures designed as large-scale air purifiers to reduce air pollution particles. The device will be able to take in air from all 360-degree angles and generate 1,300,000 cubic metres of clean air per hour.

World Tuberculosis Day

  • World Tuberculosis Day is observed on 24 March each year.
  • Government of India has committed to eliminate prevalence of TB by 2025 five years ahead of the global aim.
  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare is implementing the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for Tuberculosis Elimination (2017-2025).
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